Scientists are gaining a new level of understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) that may lead to new treatments and approaches to controlling the chronic disease, according to new research released in San Diego on Sunday, November 10, at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. Approximately 30,000 scientists are attending this year’s meeting. MS is a severe, often crippling, autoimmune disease caused by the body’s immune system attacking the nervous system. Today, more than two million people worldwide suffer from MS and other neuroinflammatory diseases. MS usually strikes in early adulthood and manifests with symptoms including vision loss, paralysis, numbness, and fatigue. The disease can be intermittent or progressive and currently has no cure. Today’s new findings show that: scientists are one step closer to understanding how antibodies in the blood stream break past the brain’s protective barrier to attack the optic nerves, spinal cord, and brain, causing the symptoms of neuromyelitis optica, a rare disease similar to MS. Understanding how the antibodies bypass the protective blood-brain barrier could provide new approaches to treating the disease (Yukio Takeshita, M.D., Ph.D., abstract 404.09); a protein involved in blood clotting might serve as an early detection method for MS before symptoms occur. Early detection of the disease could lead to more effective early treatments (Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D., abstract 404.11); low levels of a cholesterol protein correlate with the severity of a patient’s MS in both human patients and mouse models. The finding suggests the protein, known to protect against inflammation, may protect against developing MS, and possibly even aid in the regeneration of damaged neurons.
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